If you do only one thing do this
Set up an email list. It’s simple to do and the sooner you do this the better as it takes time to collect emails. So, even before you decide or understand what to do with it (this can and probably will change) set it up. Do this first even if you were thinking of a new website, new branding or advertising. It is the first step of your digital marketing strategy.
- Set up a free MailChimp account.
- Create your first list. The help files and videos in MailChimp are great so details are not necessary here.
- Keep it simple and name it something like, “[Your Business Name] Mailing List”.
When you set up the list you will get a basic signup form created. You can modify this but keep it simple. Just collect first name and email. People don’t like filling in forms so this lessens resistance to signing up at the start. This form has a short url that you can use as a link on your website, in social media posts even in print materials. As an example here’s mine http://eepurl.com/bmDcM1 . There are better ways of displaying forms but we’re talking quick start basics here. Get it working with the least time and effort then modify and refine. If you spend time trying to learn everything and getting it perfect then it may never get done.
There are now two things you need to do to start populating your list with emails. What you DON’T do is search the internet and your contacts for emails of people you think might like your newsletter and add them to the list. We are doing permission based marketing here not spam. Besides you only want people on your list that WANT to be there and want to hear from you.
- Make a list of all your current or past customers. Note their email address if you have them but if not then postal addresses.
- Make a list of close prospects. That is people that know you or at least know of you and who fit in your target demographic i.e. those who may buy from you or use your services. Note that this could include those you are connected with on social media. It may be people you know from regular local networking groups etc.
You are now going to invite the above two groups to add their emails to your mailing list voluntarily. You need a slightly different style of invite for the two different groups but you write to each personally. Don’t use any mass email software, don’t BCC everyone in and certainly don’t put them all in copy to! It needs to be a one to one email. Sure each email can say more or less the same thing so you can cut and paste from a text file for the body of the message to save time. Address each person by name and if you can put some remark or comment to indicate how you know them. Like, “I am writing to thank you for being a past valued customer of …”, “We met briefly at last months networking event…” You get the idea. Seems a lot of work but you only have to do this once. Or should I say three times as if you don’t get a response the first time send two friendly reminders about 5 days apart then give up and accept they are not interested for now.
Your past contacts and especially your past customers are so potentially valuable that even if you don’t have a record of their email address you should send a good old fashion letter. In fact consider sending a letter rather than email to your past and current customers or clients anyway as the offer will be perceived as higher value.
So what do you write in these invite letters?
It’s important to remember that the people you are emailing are not interested in your business and how well you do it. It’s not an advert or sales letter for your products or services. However it must be compelling as it is selling your newsletter. It must offer your prospect/past customer something for them. The rule is think WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”. This is not a cynical view it’s simply what we all think when asked to take an action. So an offer to join your mailing list to “keep up with the latest news from XYZ Carpet Cleaners” is not going to get you subscribers. Even free offers and discounts may not work as well as you might think. The problem with these is your prospects have to be thinking of buying what you offer at the exact time your email arrives. A 10% discount on say kitchen fitting is no use to someone who’s just had a new kitchen or who’s not going to be able to afford it for 6 months. However, including the possibility of ongoing discounts and free stuff exclusively for those on the list for the duration of their list membership is worthwhile to all for whom have even a remote possibility of buying from you. It also means that if they don’t sign up they may miss out. People don’t like to miss out.
We live in a world of instant gratification so you should give something of value away immediately in return for the signup. This is going to take some creative thinking but it’s not as hard as you might think. If you’re introducing digital marketing strategies into your business promotion you must feel you have something to offer your customers. Often we forget that those of us in business have built up skills and “trade secrets” that we take for granted but that others, or potential customers and clients have no clue about. Why should they they may have their own business or jobs to go to that’s why they hire you.
Offer your expertise for free
So let’s say you are an accountant running a small practice and want to attract new prospects and keep your current clients happy with your service. You want to attract people to your email list in order to do this, so in return for their email address your offer a downloadable free guide to bookkeeping for small business. You want this to be simple and straightforward but contain valuable information. It should not be just a generic guide, there are thousands of these on the web so give it an angle, “10 Steps to Pain Free Bookkeeping”, “The Busy Business Owners Guide to Bookkeeping”. Make it something that would be worth paying for. Make it a pdf that can be automatically downloaded after someone has signed up for your newsletter, or split it into sections and deliver each section separately one per day by autoresponder email, (not as complicated as it sounds). Or record it as a video with on screen examples of record keeping etc. The email per day by autoresponder would be my preferred method as it would be a free course which I feel has a higher perceived value than a pdf download.
Sound to complex? Too much writing and research? Well maybe but if it’s not valuable and informative who’s going to want to take the trouble to give you their email, confirm that they want it by clicking the link in the confirmation email, then finally downloading it. Not to mention reading it. If just one of the people who read or watched it bought from you and became a loyal customer how much would that be worth to you? Lifetime value of the customer and all that. Makes sense now doesn’t it.
A simpler solution which is becoming popular is the checklist format. This could be a recommended software list, a “10 mistakes to avoid” list, an industry contacts list (I recently paid for one of those). These are or should be, time savers for your prospects. Possibly they could find the same information somewhere on the Net but the point is they do not have to take the time as you have helpfully done this for them. So it’s worth the time to download.
What happens if they download the just unsubscribe?
Well this may happen but those people would probably never buy anything from you as they are just interested in either getting something for free or they are service providers like you and want to check out your info. You of course don’t want this to happen so make sure that you promise to send relevant and useful information in your follow up email newsletters.
How often should I send out emails to my list?
It’s easy to think that those receiving your email newsletters will be annoyed to see it in their inbox but why should they be? They signed up requesting to hear from you. If you don’t contact them they could think it didn’t work or that you’re not interested. I should start at once per week if you can manage it. The important thing is to send something! But make it relevant and helpful and not too long. It can always be a two sentence summary of your latest blog post saying what problem it will help them with. You may offer exclusive information for list members in which case it would be longer and your audience would expect this and be disappointed if it wasn’t comprehensive.
So what are you waiting for? Start Digital Marketing Now!
So set up a MailChimp account and start collecting emails now and take the first step of your digital marketing strategy. Write a couple of blog posts that help your target audience solve a problem and send a newsletter telling your list members about the posts and inviting their feedback. Do it even if you have only five emails including your own! Get in the habit now and you can get more sophisticated later. Oh, and let me know how you get on in the comments below.
Just one more thing… please sign up for my newsletter. At the time of writing I’m starting a new one just like you.